By Joey Francilus
MIAMI — The 20th Ultra Music Festival might have been the premier event Friday night in Miami,but just a few miles north of Bayfront Park, a more mature group of kids and families compared to the teens and twenty-somethings further south took in the sounds of Haitian konpa music at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex in Miami.
Former Haitian President Michel Martelly made a surprise appearance at the three-hour-long “Bayo Friday” event. The City of Miami police estimated a crowd of more than 600 people gathered at the building’s outdoor plaza to watch the event hosted by Michael Brun and T-Guy Francois.
The main show was scheduled for 8 p.m. but started more than an hour late. A host came to the stage about 9 p.m., apologizing to the crowd and asking, “Make some noise if you’ve ever been to a Haitian party that started on time.” The jovial crowd responded, mostly, with laughter.
Bass and strobe lights thumped at a heartbeat’s rhythm and illuminated the crowd in Little Haiti, as it did on the first day of the Winter Music Conference event, both in downtown Miami and on Miami Beach, albeit on a smaller scale.
DJ Nickymix and Gardy Girault began playing their main set at 9:30 p.m. with performers taking the stage around 10 p.m. The crowd reflected the varying shades and ethnic roots of the Haitian diaspora, while South Florida families of other cultural backgrounds danced to songs that included the Yelele classic, “Zouk la se sel medikaman nou ni,” Wayne Wonder’s “Everyone Falls in Love,” and even a few moments of Drake’s latest single, “God’s Plan,” a music video he shot in the city last month.
The smells of griot, beer, and smoke filled the festive air and the loudspeakers could surely be heard from blocks away. Other performers who hit the stage included J. Perry, DJ Taleb, and Rara Lakay; their music played well past midnight.
The event also included a film screening and a panel discussion, the latter of which included guests like Mrs. Little Haiti Plus America 2018 Regine Bell, who discussed her platform of destigmatizing mental illness following the death of her sister.
Event organizer and acclaimed DJ Michael Brun called the event turnout, “amazing” with countless attendees intermingling into the wee hours of Saturday morning, just as thousands throughout South Florida do during the peak weekend of Miami’s winter tourist season.